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November 22, 2007

Back in the U.S.

Thanks to those hwo have visited this blog and I'm sorry I haven't kept up well since I left Kenya...it was just a little harder to get to a computer. Now, I am back in the U.S., in Rhode Island for Thanksgiving. I am still on Africa time, so I'll try to use this time before everyone in the house wakes up, to fill you in on my last days in Africa and the journey home. Then I'll try to get some pictures organized back in Michigan for a final entry.

Uganda, including my visit to the Abayudaya community, was wonderful. It was a chance to be in a Jewish community that is living so close socially to one another and close to the earth. It reminded me so much of kibbutz life in Israel which I experienced in 1991, but even more rural and rustic.

The community works, lives, and teams up so closely for so many needs, and it seems so much easier to do this there than in the U.S., probably because most doors are open and everyone walks rather than uses cars. The food is fresh as it is grown right there, and the prayers sung on Shabbat for example giving thanks for bread carry so much meaning. For a nice blog about two Americans living in Mbale, visit the blog of Adam and Maital http://mulembeuganda.wordpress.com/ . We had dinner along with Samson at a great Indian restaurant at the Landmark Inn and had a great time talking about life in Africa.
There are many challenges for the Abayudaya, including health care. For a day and a half, we provided dental services, which consisted of extractions only. In fact, there is only one dentist in the closest town, Mbale, and that dentist does extractions only. There was dentist who did fillings, but he left. I spent a lot of time talking with Samson, the community physician, about how we can change this with the building of the new Health Center. We would like to put a dental clinic in the new Health Center, one which provides preventive care and restorative care, with the goal that extraction should be a last resort and not a first choice. I believe we can do it, but I think it will require teaming up with others in the U.S., including dentists and dental supply companies, for their support.
Transportation is also very difficult and costly. Gas is up to $6 per gallon (2400 Ugandan shillings per liter) and with a typical professional wage of $3 per day for a nurse that means that walking, bodas bodas (sit on a pillow on the back of a bicycle) and shared transport are the only viable alternatives for most.

The journey back to the U.S. was long. Matatu (shared minivan) ride from Mbale to Busia, which broke down along the way, then another from Busia to Kisumu. I am very greatful to Aura, a young nurse I met on the matatu to Busia, who helped me when the matatu broke down and then guided me to a matatu to Kisumu and made sure I was on the right bus and would not get a muzungu price. She is an example of how kind I found the people in Uganda and Kenya. I met many people who were eager to help when I was lost, confused, etc., and this I will remember just as well as the beautiful countryside and delicious food.

I will close now nd will try to put in another entry once I have processed some more photos. I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by szwetch at November 22, 2007 03:55 AM


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